A decorated U.S. Special Forces medic who murdered his girlfriend’s husband wants Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to intervene and reduce his six-decade prison sentence, arguing that he deserves leniency because he helped put his girlfriend behind bars once he discovered she had lied about being abused and “used” him in an elaborate murder-for-hire plot.
“I became her weapon,” 51-year-old Darrin Lopez told NBC’s “Dateline” in his first interview since receiving a 62-year sentence for homicide. “I understand that.”
Before being transferred to a prison east of Waco, Lopez stated from the Dallas County Jail, “The true criminal is in prison for life.” “I helped put her there.”
Lopez, 51, shot Jamie Faith, 49, as he walked his dog outside his Dallas residence with his wife, Jennifer Faith, on October 9, 2020.
In July, Lopez was found guilty and sentenced. Jennifer Faith pleaded guilty to using interstate commerce to commit murder-for-hire in February 2022, confessing to prosecutors that she deceived Lopez into believing her husband was physically and sexually abusing her.
In reality, Jamie Faith never harmed his wife, and the allegations are false, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Calvert of the Northern District of Texas, who spoke with “Dateline.” Jennifer Faith, however, used fake email accounts and photographs of previous injuries, as well as a stock photo of a bloody lip, to convince Lopez otherwise, according to Calvert.
Calvert described Faith’s lies, which included multiple violent sexual assaults, as “some of the most sadistic things you could possibly imagine.”
Reunited high school sweethearts
Jennifer Faith, a speech therapist, and her husband, an American Airlines IT director, had been married for 15 years and had an adolescent daughter at the time of his murder. Jennifer Faith reconnected with Lopez, whom she dated in high school, during her marriage. The couple engaged in a seven-month “emotional affair,” according to prosecutors in Dallas County.
Lopez retired from the Army after six deployments to Iraq, said Andrew Cheramie, a supervisory special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who investigated the case. Lopez received a purple heart, a bronze award, and a traumatic brain injury in combat, according to Cheramie’s report on “Dateline.”
Lopez and his wife divorced in 2018, and he became increasingly isolated while living on a large, rural property near Nashville, Tennessee, with two of his daughters during the pandemic, according to Lopez’s attorney, Juan Sanchez.
Sanchez informed “Dateline” that he is currently sitting at his computer on a farm. “And he declares, ‘You know what? I’m going to attempt to reconnect with her. And he sent her an email after discovering her on LinkedIn. This is where it all began.”
Tens of thousands of communications
In the months following their reconnection in March 2020, Lopez and Jennifer Faith exchanged tens of thousands of messages and phone calls, according to Eric Barnes, a Dallas detective who investigated the case. Jennifer Faith referred to Lopez as her “soulmate” and they devised a five-year plan to be together.
Lopez stated that he had no plans to end Jennifer Faith’s marriage. Lopez stated that when she told him there was no intimacy between her and her spouse, he pushed her to be truthful.
Jennifer Faith informed Lopez in April that her spouse had discovered their affair and had begun abusing her. According to a transcript of the interview obtained by “Dateline,” Lopez later revealed to Calvert that she claimed her husband sexually assaulted her and that she awoke to him conducting CPR.
Email correspondence between Jennifer Faith and Lopez showed that he wanted to alert American Airlines to the alleged abuse and pressed her to go to the police. Calvert stated that Jennifer Faith denied because she did not want her daughter to lose her father and feared that doing so would only make the abuse worse.
“She also told me that she would deny everything to the police” if he informed authorities, Lopez told “Dateline.” “She would deny everything.”
If I did nothing, she would have perished.
As the Faiths’ wedding anniversary, October 8, 2020, approached, Lopez claimed he received text messages purportedly from Jamie Faith threatening sexual assault and potential drowning of Jennifer Faith.
So he drove ten hours to Texas, persuaded that “if I didn’t do something, she was going to die,” as he explained to “Dateline.” “I made that commitment right then and there.”
On October 9, moments after the Faiths had left their residence to walk their dog, Jamie Faith was shot nine times by an armed Lopez. Calvert stated that three bullets struck him in the cranium.
To make the killing appear like a robbery, Lopez removed Jamie Faith’s wedding ring, punched Jennifer Faith and bound her hands, Lopez later told Calvert, according to a transcript of the interview obtained by “Dateline.”
Lopez then escaped in his pickup truck. He told Calvert that he threw Jamie Faith’s ring out the window somewhere in Arkansas.
Begging for aid
In the aftermath of the murder, Jennifer Faith portrayed herself as a distraught widow and begged for assistance in locating her husband’s murderer.
She told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth at the time, “My hope is that one day the perpetrator will realize the gravity of what they’ve done and what they’ve taken from me and my daughter.”
The following January, Lopez was arrested after authorities traced his black Nissan pickup with a distinctive “T” sticker to his Tennessee residence. Although he claimed Jennifer Faith had deceived him, according to the local prosecutor’s office, “evidence shows Mr. Lopez took no logical steps to confirm the abuse or otherwise secure Jennifer Faith’s safety.”
Calvert stated that Darrin had other options besides traveling across multiple states and murdering someone in cold blood. However, this is the option he selected.
Jennifer Faith was arrested in February 2021, as detectives began to unravel the conspiracy to murder Jamie Faith. Calvert stated that she was charged with obstruction of justice after authorities discovered she had instructed Lopez to remove the “T” sticker from his vehicle.
Seven months later, Jennifer Faith was indicted for contract murder.
Juan Sanchez, Lopez’s attorney, stated that it took him six months to persuade Lopez that Jennifer had fabricated the allegations. Lopez stated that once he came around, he was despondent.
“When I got arrested, I went to jail truly believing I saved Jennifer” and her daughter, he told “Dateline.”
“It never occurred to me that she could use me in such a manner. I’m convinced she loved me.”
Lopez apologized to the daughter of the Faiths and stated that he could not absolve himself for his actions. However, he could assist by collaborating with prosecutors to “put her away,” he said.
Cooperating with authorities
After four months, Jennifer Faith pled guilty. She was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.
Lopez spent two hours walking Calvert and other officials through the case in October 2021, one month after Jennifer Faith was charged with murder-for-hire. According to the transcript, he told them that they had agreed to make the murder appear like a robbery and that he had devised a code word — 575, the number of his Special Forces team — for her to use in text messages after she began claiming her husband was abusing her.
Lopez stated to “Dateline” that his cooperation with prosecutors was crucial.
“Because of me, they were able to inform her that Darrin would be testifying against her,” he explained. However, when Lopez went to trial in July, Dallas County prosecutors did not allow the jury to hear many of these details, he said.
“The jury was unaware of the extent of my assistance,” Lopez stated.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas declined comment. Jennifer Faith’s attorneys and a representative of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Lopez’s attorney argued in court that his client believed Jennifer Faith was in imminent danger when he mortally shot her husband, an act of self-defense that Texas law permits.
A jury, however, found Lopez guilty and sentenced him to 62 years in prison.
What the jury thought
In an interview with NBC News, a juror in the Lopez case recalled that the jury reached a verdict quickly. The juror, who requested anonymity because he did not wish to be associated with the case publicly, stated that the group did not find the self-defense argument convincing.
“There were far too many other options,” he stated.
He stated that the jury’s deliberations regarding Lopez’s sentence took several hours. A juror recalled that a portion of the group believed Lopez should never leave his confinement again if he received the maximum sentence of five years to life in prison.
For them, the juror explained, the case was straightforward: “This very innocent person is dead because of your decision.”
The juror said that others, at least initially, believed Lopez should spend far fewer years in prison, including one who believed he should serve the minimum term.
The juror stated in the interview that he did not view Lopez as an ongoing threat and that he believed the convicted killer had been manipulated; however, he criticized Lopez for not “asking bigger questions and pushing back more.”
The panel ultimately decided on a sentence of 62 years, a number the juror said he was comfortable with after reviewing text messages that appeared to contradict Lopez’s claim that he had no choice but to shoot Jamie Faith to death, he said.
According to the juror, Lopez’s cooperation with authorities was mentioned momentarily but not in detail in court.
Now, Lopez stated that he believes Abbott will take this assistance and Abbott’s claim of self-defense into account and show him leniency.
Lopez stated that he was not seeking a pardon, but rather a sentence reduction, despite Abbott’s pledge to pardon Daniel Perry, a U.S. Army sergeant convicted of murdering a protester in Austin in 2020.
Juan Sanchez, Lopez’s attorney, stated that he has not submitted a clemency application. The attorney managing Lopez’s appeal and a spokesperson for the governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.